Hewlett Packard Enterprise took to the CeBIT trade show in Hanover, Germany, this week to show off their new 3D avatar generation photo booth called the Avatar Platform. Not unlike similar 3D scanning booths, the Avatar Platform uses a closet-sized booth filled with high powered cameras to snap an extremely detailed 3D image of the person standing inside of it. However thanks to a combination of hardware and some newly developed software, this booth creates hyper-detailed 3D avatars that can be used to shop for clothing online, put yourself in the starring role of your favorite video game or navigate the future of the internet mixed with virtual reality spaces.
HPE brought together technologies from three different companies to build the Avatar Platform. It all starts a full body scanner developed by Doob Group that captures 64 pictures simultaneously thanks to the rings of cameras that line the booth. From that point Quantum Matrix and their Quantum Human software package takes over and creates the fully rendered 3D scan of the client. Then the 3D avatar is set to South Korean software developer Physan who developed a program called DC Suite to realistically simulate clothing using the manufacturer’s patterns and sizing specifications.
The final 3D model is a life-like 3D representation than can be fully animated and realistically dressed in clothing, including the way that specific fabrics drape, clings, folds or falls off of each unique 3D body. The obvious use for the Avatar Platform is online clothing retailers who can supply customers with 3D images of their clothing options that can be tried on by their 3D avatar. With a digital avatar that has the same body proportions, customers will be able to verify sizing, see how the clothing will look on their body, match colors and patterns and even see how specific fabrics look on their body.
While the process of getting customers to 3D scan their body isn’t exactly cheap, a prototype system costs about $135,000, in an industry where 30% of clothing purchased online is returned, just a 10% reduction could save more than $36 billion a year. Numbers like that make the Avatar Platform price tag a lot more palatable, especially when HPE thinks that with scaling they can drop the cost for each booth down to about $11,100 to $16,650. And while the current technology requires users to wear tight clothing to acquire accurate sizing, HPE is already working on a way around that limitation.
Of course the ability to generate a realistic 3D avatar will have uses far beyond the world of online shopping. A gym could purchase a scanning booth and use it to accurately track clients’ ongoing fitness progress. It could even be used to track any physical changes made to a customer’s body over time. It would allow them to determine where they need to focus more efforts, and see how far they have come, which can be an effective tool for maintaining gym progress.
And naturally a 3D avatar would be tremendously useful for video game and virtual reality developers. Video games could easily use a 3D avatar to allow players to insert themselves directly into the game that they are playing. Many game developers are viewing 3D avatars as a way to develop and even increase player interest. HPE is already looking into working with game developers to allow players to switch existing 3D characters in video games with 3D avatars.
In a few years when virtual reality is a common way of accessing the internet and digital spaces, the ability to navigate using a realistic 3D avatar would also be a way to increase user participation. Actors and politicians could interact virtually with their fans or constituents, and users in a professional settings can conduct realistic business meetings in virtual space. Then there is the adult industry, which is already heavily investing the virtual reality pornography and capturing 3D avatars of famous adult actors.
And despite what you may think all of this is far closer than you can imagine. The process is already incredibly simple, and quick. The 3D scan takes only seconds, and the 3D avatar can be generated in just about ten minutes. Doob already has several of its 3D scanning booths in retail locations as diverse as Berlin, Los Angeles and New York where they sell 3D selfies to customers. These booths could easily be converted into Avatar Platform booths. Currently customers are charged a little under $40 for a full body 3D scan, HPE hopes to make it a free service by subsidizing the cost to businesses and retailers who would offer the option of trying on clothing virtually. Is this something you would enjoy? Discuss in the HPE 3D Avatar Booth forum over at 3DPB.com.